Try to imagine living life every day, but never living your own life. This is the difficult truth for A, the main “character” (for lack of a better word) in David Levithan’s Every Day. Each morning, A wakes up in a new body. Just like A, we don’t really know many specifics. A doesn’t remember ever having a body of his/her own. A doesn’t associate with a particular gender because it has always changed based on the day. (I’m going to go assume A is male during this review for simplicity’s sake; there’s some commentary on this in the book that I’ll address later.) But A can feel that his mind is separate from the bodies he inhabits. With some effort, A is able to access each body’s memory and uses this information to live each day as closely to his host’s normal routine as possible. A doesn’t know what the host remembers the following day. After 16 years, A has learned not to make attachments to people.
Everything changes when A meets Rhiannon, the girlfriend of a boy whose body A inhabits for a day, Justin. While A is in Justin’s body, A spends the day with Rhiannon and is quickly drawn to her true kindness and fierce spirit. A sees that Justin doesn’t normally treat her very well, but he can’t bring himself to keep up the usual routine. Instead, for the first time, he lets someone see his own personality. He gets attached. And that’s where the problems start. A begins attempting to see Rhiannon when he’s in different bodies. He starts getting more reckless with his hosts as he pursues her, and things get messy fast.
While there is obviously a fantasy element at play here, this story is really a romance. A has never really been in love before Rhiannon, and despite the complexities of the situation, Rhiannon can’t deny that she has feelings for A as well. It was kind of an “instalove” situation, since A only spent one day with Rhiannon before basically becoming obsessed with her, which was a little hard for me to swallow. Within the context of the story it isn’t totally crazy – A’s life experiences are unique, and so is the way he falls in love. But you need to be able to buy into that or else you might struggle with the fact that so much of the plot is related to A’s feelings for Rhiannon.
A’s body-changing situation leads to a lot of questions as his relationship with Rhiannon unfolds. Even though Rhiannon loves A, he struggles with the fact that she is not physically attracted to him when he is female (or, in one case, a morbidly obese male). There is some pretty blatant commentary by the author here, and I imagine readers will respond differently to it. Just by referring to A as male in this review I feel like I’m going completely against one of the messages of the story. Be assured I didn’t miss it – I just don’t know how to write a review without any pronouns!
I feel like I’m a pretty open-minded person and for me much of the commentary (gender-related and otherwise) was fairly insightful…but at a certain point I felt like, Rhiannon is a heterosexual teenage girl – it seems unfair to expect her to be attracted to girls, especially when she has so little time with each body. She never has a chance to get used to it and completely wrap her mind around the idea of A being inside. It’s not like she avoided A when he was in bodies she didn’t find appealing – she just didn’t feel comfortable with a physical relationship on those days. All things considered, I thought Rhiannon handled the whole situation like a champ.
On a related note, Levithan really did a great job with keeping A fairly ambiguous. The character really didn’t feel particularly male or particularly female. It seemed like a realistic interpretation of how someone whose gender changed daily might think, because they would not be as heavily influenced by constructed gender roles. This might be difficult for some readers to deal with. If you imagine A as a particular gender, that idea will inevitably be challenged at some point by A’s thoughts or behavior. One thing that remains constant, however, is that A is clearly selfless and well-meaning. Other people with A’s “ability” might use it for terrible things, but the thought never even crosses A’s mind until a mishap with one of his hosts makes him realize he may not be alone.
Clearly there are some abstract ideas here. Levithan does a good job of explaining just the right amount – enough to keep you from feeling totally confused, but not so much that it starts to poke holes in logic and ruin suspension of disbelief. Certainly there were questions left unanswered, and at the end of the book I still felt a little unsatiated. I think this was probably done on purpose, and rightly so – I have no idea how you could end a story like this without leaving some things open-ended.
Reading this book felt kind of like remembering a vivid dream. The writing gets pretty flowery (which may or may not be your thing) and the way things were described was just a little off-reality, which fit well with the mildly supernatural star-crossed romance nature of the story. One thing I don’t have a lot of patience for is extensive poetic soliloquy. This book got very close to exceeding my tolerance for that type of thing, but luckily didn’t cross the line.The problem for me was that the daydreamy tone and emphasis on a rather abstract romance was not what I was expecting from this book. I’m not sure why it was unexpected for me. The cover and the description certainly lend themselves to that tone. And once I finally settled into it, I quite liked it.
This book raises a lot of interesting issues and would be fantastic for a book club discussion or a high school English classroom. While somewhat similar concepts have been tackled in books like The Time Traveler’s Wife and My Name Is Memory, this book complicates the obstacles the main character has to face and really forces readers to THINK rather than focusing solely on the romantic aspect. It was a unique, interesting read and definitely a change of pace from what I’m accustomed to reading in the Young Adult genre.
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